PUC backs selling of solar surplus (Press Democrat)

posted Jan 29, 2016, 10:05 AM by Geoffrey Smith   [ updated Mar 1, 2016, 9:51 AM ]

PUC backs selling of solar surplus

Decision affecting homeowners, businesses hailed by SR advocate

By SCOTT SMITH ASSOCIATED PRESS

January 29, 2016

FRESNO — California homeowners and businesses installing rooftop solar panels can keep offsetting their energy bills by sending surplus power back to the grid, regulators said Thursday in a decision celebrated by the solar industry.

New guidelines narrowly approved by the Public Utilities Commission add fees to future solar users, but they fall short of what utility companies sought to charge customers for their use of the grid. Solar customers will pay up to $150 in a onetime fee for connecting to the grid and up to $10 each month. Existing solar customers aren’t affected by the changes approved by the commission in a 3-2 vote.

Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, said that the ever-dropping costs of solar equipment should offset the new fees.

“At the end of the day, going solar in California will remain a very good economic investment,” Del Chiaro said, adding that Nevada and other states have raised fees on customers, pushing the solar industry out of the market.

“This has been a clear signal that California is building our grid in a different way,” she said.

Geoffrey Smith of Solar Sonoma County, part of the nonprofit Center for Climate Protection, hailed the decision as a way to bring certainty to consumers considering whether to buy solar panels. A typical home installation costs $16,000-$20,000 and takes 5-7 years to pay for itself, he said.

“It’s very exciting,” said Smith, who attended the commission meeting in San Francisco. “I would say people are in a very celebratory mood tonight.”

Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and PG&E pressed the commission to charge solar owners heftier fees so the cost of running the grid doesn’t fall on non-solar customers.

PG&E spokeswoman Ari Vanrenen said in a statement that the power company supports the continued growth of rooftop solar in California, but she called the decision disappointing.

Chaz Mathias of Synergy Solar installs solar panels on a Santa Rosa home.

JOHN BURGESS / THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

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